Extremist group accuses State of acting against interests of Naga people

The Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, or NSCN (I-M), has warned of “unpleasant incidents” in Arunachal Pradesh after accusing the State government of acting against the interests of the Naga people.

In a statement, the extremist group said Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein have been “acting irresponsibly and failing to fulfil the wishes of the Naga people of the TCL districts.”

TCL refers to Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts comprising the south-eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh adjoining Nagaland and Myanmar.

“Unpleasant incidents would be borne by themselves as they deliberately ignored the outcry of the Nagas in Arunachal Pradesh. The long patience of positive response of the NSCN/GPRN cannot be considered as weakness,” the outfit said, adding that the Naga MLAs who failed to comply with its “orders” would be treated as anti-nationals.

GPRN is the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim, a parallel government that the NSCN (I-M) runs across the Naga-inhabited areas of the northeast.

The statement is a follow-up of the September 2021 diktat the NSCN (I-M) had issued to the MLAs of the TCL districts to withdraw support to Mr. Khandu and Mr. Mein. The TCL districts yield a total of 12 MLAs.

The diktat was in reaction to the official removal of the “Naga” tag from certain ethnic groups inhabiting the TCL districts. Parliament in August 2021 passed the (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021, seeking to change the nomenclature of certain tribes from Arunachal Pradesh mentioned in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribe) Order of 1950.

Consequently, the communities clubbed as “Any other Naga tribe” came to be officially recognised by their individual names such as Nocte, Tangsa, Tutsa and Wancho.

The NSCN (I-M) said the change in nomenclature had “blatantly insulted and humiliated the sentiments and rights of the Nagas of TCL” and “wilfully undermined, distorted the identity and denied the existence of the Naga people” in Arunachal Pradesh. It called the amendment derogatory.

Rijiju’s assurance

Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju has assured the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh that no refugee in the State can claim the tribal rights under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019.

He said this in reference to the concern of the State’s indigenous organisations that the Chakmas and Hajongs, displaced from Bangladesh in the 1960s and mostly settled in south-eastern Arunachal Pradesh, would enjoy tribal status because of the CAA. The Chakmas are Buddhists and the Hajong are Hindus.

“The northeast is exempted from the purview of the CAA. Home Minister Amit Shah has already clarified to the Chakmas and Hajongs that no refugee can claim tribal rights in Arunachal Pradesh under the CAA,” Mr. Rijiju told journalists in State capital Itanagar on January 6.

The Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI) asked Mr. Rijiju not to misinterpret the CAA with respect to the Chakmas and Hajongs as they are not refugees.

“The Chakmas and Hajongs had migrated and were permanently settled in the erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh) by the Union of India from 1964-1969 through allotment of land and grant of all facilities accorded to citizens,” the CDFI said in a statement.

It also reminded the Law and Justice Minister that the Supreme Court had in a 1996 judgement settled the issue of the citizenship of the Chakmas and Hajongs living in the frontier State. The court also noted that the two communities had applied for citizenship under Section 5 of the 1955 Citizenship Act and that no other law would apply to them retroactively.

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